Return of the Email Wars: Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Battle It Out in the Cloud
By Jim Lundy
Whoever said email is dead has greatly exaggerated its demise. In the social networking era, email has been depicted as the epitome of everything that’s wrong with collaboration and workplace productivity. We’ve gone from “no email Fridays” to just no email at all programs.
Yet through it all, several providers have been putting stakes in the ground around cloud email offerings.
I thought email was no longer cool. The newest in this space is Amazon with WorkMail which will now compete with Microsoft, Google, and IBM.
Amazon WorkMail is a hosted offering that does support the popular Microsoft Outlook client. While still in beta testing mode, we believe security and privacy will be a huge concern that Amazon will have to provide guidance on for enterprises. Although, Amazon says enterprises will be able to encrypt their own data with their own encryption keys. Amazon will provide active directory integration and migration tools for migrating from on-premises email servers. WorkMail will integrate with Amazon’s Zocalo file sharing offering.
Amazon enters a market dominated by Microsoft. However, it will be in direct competition with Google and its Gmail and overall Google Docs offering. One thing Amazon does have in its favor is its ability to move very fast and enter new markets. WorkMail is targeted for general availability in the second quarter of 2015.
IBM is looking to reinvent itself around the cloud with its new Verse offering. Verse merges email, social, real-time, analytics, and asynchronous capabilities. IBM aims to make Verse the enterprise collaboration hub that will be the interface to multiple communications and collaboration modalities.
What’s most interesting here is that IBM introduced a freemium model with Verse. There will be certain limitations around file sharing and storage. Verse also marks a new strategy for IBM targeting SMBs. This has been the domain of Google. Now with emerging cloud email offerings, competition will be stiff.
Battle in the Cloud
The most popular battle in the cloud has been Google versus Microsoft. They have been engaged in somewhat asymmetric warfare with Google launching an offensive on Microsoft with Google Apps for Business and Microsoft going after the search market. Microsoft struck back with Office 365 and has been gaining ground.
The showdown in cloud email usually comes down to price. We see Microsoft willing to match Google on price to win deals. While price is important in the cloud email wars, enterprises are looking for assurances around security and privacy in the cloud.
Security in the Cloud
It is this area around security and privacy that will be most interesting and pivotal for winning enterprise deals. Amazon is definitely giving enterprise planners something to think about as it will allow enterprises to decide where they want to store their data and provide encryption keys.
Companies will be able to encrypt their data with encryption keys that they manage. This has been a request for companies who want to ensure privacy of their data. This will be a differentiator and an increasing part of the conversation for enterprise planners. Amazon will trail in storage, though, only offering 50GB inboxes and 200GB of storage whereas Microsoft offers 1TB of storage with OneDrive in Office 365.
A large point in this return of the email wars is that it’s not just about email. Microsoft and Google boast a complete office productivity suite that includes email. It will be interesting to see how Amazon combats that. In the case of IBM Verse, it will bring social collaboration, analytics, and email management features to deal with email overload and productivity.
Each of these providers are trying to differentiate around certain email enhancing capabilities and amplify them. While Microsoft has the lead in this market, it will be very interesting to see if any significant share gets taken away as the battle heats up.